When and How to Clean and Disinfect a Facility

At a glance

  • Regularly cleaning surfaces in your facility helps prevent the spread of germs that make people sick.
cleaning bucket on rollers with mops and brooms


The following recommendations are for buildings in community settings (such as offices, gyms, businesses, and community centers) and is not intended for healthcare settings or other facilities where specific regulations or practices for cleaning and disinfection may apply. These cleaning and disinfection recommendations are intended to help prevent the spread of harmful germs and do not apply to other materials (such as chemicals) that can be found on surfaces. Some germs are more difficult to remove or kill and might require specialized cleaning and disinfection. Always follow standard practices and appropriate regulations specific to your type of facility for cleaning and disinfection.


Cleaning with commercial cleaners that contain soap or detergent decreases the number of germs on surfaces and reduces risk of infection from surfaces in your facility. Cleaning alone removes most types of harmful germs (like viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi) from surfaces.

Sanitizing reduces the remaining germs on surfaces after cleaning.

Disinfecting can kill harmful germs that remain on surfaces after cleaning. By killing germs on a surface after cleaning, disinfecting can further lower the risk of spreading disease.

Clean surfaces before sanitizing or disinfecting them, because impurities like dirt may make it harder for sanitizing or disinfecting chemicals to kill germs.

Consider the type of surface and how often the surface is touched. Generally, high touch surfaces are more likely to spread germs. If the space is a high traffic area, you may choose to clean more frequently or disinfect in addition to cleaning.

When to clean surfaces

  • Clean high-touch surfaces regularly (for example, pens, counters, shopping carts, door handles, stair rails, elevator buttons, touchpads, restroom fixtures, and desks).
  • Clean other surfaces when they are visibly dirty.

How to safely clean various surfaces

In most situations, cleaning regularly is enough to prevent the spread of germs. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after cleaning. Follow these tips to safely clean different surfaces in your facility:

For hard surfaces, such as counters, light switches, desks, and floors:

  • Clean surfaces with soap and water or with cleaning products appropriate for use on the surface.

For soft surfaces, such as carpet, rugs, and drapes:

  • Clean the surface using a product containing soap, detergent, or other type of cleaner appropriate for use on these surfaces.
  • Launder items if possible, according to the label's instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • Vacuum surfaces such as carpets and rugs and dispose of the dirt safely.

For laundry items, such as clothing, towels, and linens:

  • Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • It is safe to wash dirty laundry from a person who is sick with other people's items.
  • Clean clothes hampers or laundry baskets according to guidance for surfaces.

For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines:

  • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics, which makes cleaning and disinfecting easier.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations for cleaning the electronic device.

For outdoor areas, such as patios and sidewalks:

  • Spraying cleaning or disinfection products on low-touch surfaces in outdoor areas—such as on sidewalks, roads, or groundcover—is not necessary, effective, or recommended.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, such as grab bars, play structures, and railings when visibly dirty.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of wooden surfaces (such as wood play structures, benches, and tables) are not recommended.

Disinfecting safely

When to disinfect

In addition to cleaning, disinfect areas of your facility where people have obviously been ill (for example, vomiting on facility surfaces). If the space is a high-traffic area, you may choose to clean more frequently or disinfect in addition to cleaning. During certain disease outbreaks, local health authorities might recommend specific disinfection procedures to reduce the risk of spreading disease within the facility.

How to disinfect safely

To disinfect, use an EPA-registered disinfecting product for the specific harmful germ (such as viruses or bacteria) if known. Not all disinfectants are effective for all harmful germs.

Clean the surface with soap and water first. Always read the label on disinfecting products to make sure the products can be used on the type of surface you are disinfecting (such as a hard or soft surface, food contact surface, or residual surface).

Follow these important safety guidelines when using chemical disinfectants:

  • Open doors and windows and use fans or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) settings to increase air circulation in the area.
  • Wear the recommended protective equipment (for example, gloves or goggles) to protect your skin and eyes from potential splashes, as recommended by Section 8 of the product's Safety Data Sheet. [PDF – 7 pages]
  • After you apply the disinfectant to the surface, leave the disinfectant on the surface long enough to kill the germs. This is called the contact/wet time. You can find the contact time listed in the Safety Data Sheet and in the directions. The surface should stay wet during the entire contact time to make sure germs are killed.
  • Ensure safe use and proper storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing them securely and using PPE needed for the products.
  • If the product instructions tell you to dilute the product with water, use water at room temperature (unless the label says otherwise). Note: Disinfectants activated or diluted with water may have a shorter shelf life.
  • Clearly label all cleaning or disinfection solutions.
  • Store and use chemicals out of the reach of children and animals.
  • Do not mix products or chemicals with each other as this could be hazardous and change the chemical properties.
  • Do not eat, drink, or breathe cleaning or disinfection products into your body or apply directly to your skin. These products can cause serious harm.
  • Do not wipe or bathe pets with any disinfection products.
  • Immediately after disinfecting, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

In most cases, fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying are not recommended as primary methods of surface disinfection and have several safety risks, unless the product label says these methods can be used.

See EPA's Guidance for Cleaning & Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools and Homes.

Additional considerations for employers and facility operators

Develop policies to protect and train workers before assigning cleaning and disinfecting tasks. To protect workers from hazardous chemicals, training should include:

  • Determining what PPE is necessary (refer to Safety Data Sheet); when to use it; how to properly put it on, use it, and take it off; and how to properly dispose of it.
  • Reading labels about the hazards of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals used in the workplace.
  • Ensuring the work area and facility has adequate ventilation to protect workers during cleaning and disinfecting tasks.
  • Labeling all hazardous cleaning products and chemicals in the workplace.
  • Making Safety Data Sheets available to workers for all cleaning products and chemicals in the workplace.

Employers must follow applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, including the hazard communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), personal protective equipment standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), and other OSHA requirements, including those established by state plans, whenever such requirements apply.


These recommendations are not intended for healthcare settings or for operators of facilities such as food and agricultural production or processing workplace settings, manufacturing workplace settings, food preparation and food service areas, or early care and education/childcare settings where specific regulations or practices for cleaning and disinfection may apply.